Los Angeles The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) will go to trial on its challenge to the 2001 California redistricting plan, after a three judge panel found that the claims raised "important and substantial questions" of law. The panel declined to postpone the March primary elections until June of 2002.
Among the important and substantial questions of statutory and constitutional law raised by the MALDEF suit is the application of voting rights laws in a region with a population that is both rapidly changing and multi-ethnic. "The fact that the court recognized that California has a very diverse and growing multi-ethnic population does not minimize the fact that the congressional district maps intentionally fractured the geographically compact Latino community in the San Fernando Valley, or that in the San Diego area, the legislature deliberately left out Latino neighborhoods to protect the incumbent," said Antonia Hernández, MALDEF's President and General Counsel.
"The judges decided that the complex factual questions presented required further development through discovery, and a full hearing on the merits. The court's decision did not give the State a seal of approval, as attorneys for the Senate had asked. Instead the court found that we had raised "serious questions to make the case a fair ground for litigation. We will present our evidence expeditiously at a full hearing on the merits and prove that these plans dilute the voting power of Latinos in the state."
The parties have been ordered by the court to submit a trial schedule within two weeks. MALDEF has requested a speedy trial so that the matter may be resolved before the March primary. Other community based organizations and voters, including statewide LULAC and regional MAPA chapters will be joining the lawsuit.
Latinos constituted 80% of the State's population growth over the past decade. "The redistricting process should have given these new communities a voice a vote in the governance issues of California. MALDEF is confident that we can demonstrate that the current districts will effectively suppress the political voice of thousands of Latinos for the next ten years," added Hernández.